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Thread: Pilot transfers among RAF squadrons?

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    Default Pilot transfers among RAF squadrons?

    Hello all... When reading RAF fighter pilot biographies (WWII), I realize that the norm was (is?) for a pilot to be transferred to several different squadrons through his "career"... What would prompt those transfers...? Who would initiate a squadron transfer...? The pilot himself? His squadron leader? Would the "higher ups" request pilots from squadrons, to be sent to other squadrons in need of more pilots...? If so, would the request include certain "criteria" (a mimum of experience or specific skills, for example?) Just wondering... I'd think that it would help with team spirit and cohesion that the unit stayed "together" for the longest time, so I'm rather puzzled that, more often than not, RAF pilots seemed to "hop" from squadron to squadron... Many thanks in advance for your thoughts and information on this...!

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    I think the key to your question lies in the fact that you are likely reading the biographies of well-known aces and leaders - men in much demand. Thus, if a vacancy suddenly occurred in a key position (flight commander or squadron commander) there would be an urgent need to transfer someone who had demonstrated skill and leadership. The "requirements of the service" would be the principal governing factor.

    On the other hand, the need to transfer a leader might be less urgent. If it was evident that S/L X was near the end a tour, it would make sense to bring in F/L Y as an understudy, either as a flight commander or attached as "supernumerary".

    Particular needs might be factors. If a man had a proven record as an instructor, he might be moved to units which had obvious needs in that direction. If a unit was an administrative mess, a new CO might be posted in (perhaps with a new adjutant). National sensibilities also mattered, particularly with Dominion squadrons.

    Changes in aircraft types (Hurricanes to Typhoons, for example) or new functions (changing from fighter to fighter-bomber) frequently dictated changes in personnel, especially at the top.

    And then there were cases - at all levels - of trying to fit square pegs into square holes !

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    There is a more general reason. Pilots would leave a squadron at the end of their tour of duty, and then spend time in a second-line role, or (if an officer) staff college training for higher rank. At the end of their tour at this duty they would be posted to whatever unit required personnel. This could be open to negotiation, and this might include a transfer back to his original unit.

    A clerk in the Warton Aerodynamics office spent his first front-line tour as a Lancaster pilot, and after a period on other duties (including flying possibly the last Botha to its scrapyard) he went to the Ministry to find his new role. On the way he met a friend, who warned him of pressure to become a Typhoon pilot on the Continent, because the chop rate was so high. He managed a posting to Mosquito nightfighters, but the war finished before his conversion.

    Moving from unit to unit in the interests of promotion or need can certainly be seen in other air forces, but the US also operated the tour system. Pilots who did experience second (or even third) combat tours would not return to their original units.

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    Thank you Hugh and Graham... Both very enlightening...! :-)
    About tours (and pardon my ignorance), what would be a typical tour lenght...? One year...? Just wondering... (I've read a lot of books on the RAF, but they all assume the reader is fully familiar with the organization's day to day bureaucracy and operations... I unfortunatelly don't have a military background, so I must ask...)

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    Tour length varied through the war, but thirty missions for Bomber Command and perhaps 200 flying hours for Fighter Command will do as a starting point. Duration would vary with the intensity of operations, but I feel six months is perhaps closer than a year. For your general background, Alfred Price did write a RAF Handbook which you will find informative, but although it will provide a lot of information it may not provide this detail.

    EDIT No he didn't try Chaz Bowyer or David Wragg
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&k...l_6mk4uycpa9_b

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    "RAF pilots seemed to "hop" from squadron to squadron..."
    ====================================

    13 Base RAF was home for 103 Sqdn, 576 Sqdn, and 550 Sqdn.
    When a sqdn from 13 Base needed a make-crew they would borrow 'bods' from the other sqdns on the Base.

    These were not official transfers; however, it fits your description of hopping from sqdn to sqdn.

    I am reminded of a 576 Sqdn S/L who was a qualified Lancaster pilot but not a regular pilot
    (at this time I believe the pilot is alive so I won't use his name).
    He kept putting his name in to all 13 Base Sqdns to be considered for any op.
    In 1945.Mar.12 he was called up by 103 Sqdn for a gardening op with a make-up crew.
    The hastily thrown-together crew were 'bods' from all 3 sqdns on 13 Base.

    This is an example of an RAF pilot hopping from sqdn to sqdn.

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    Thanks for the feedback, Graham & grounded.

    And Graham, "History of the RAF" by Chaz Bowyer was my very first RAF history book. That was back in the '80s in South America, where any RAF book was a rarity. No ebay or amazon those days, kids nowadays days don't know how lucky they are...! Wish I had access to all those books back then, when I had plenty of *time* to read them all... Now I have to wait until retirement! :-\

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    Respecting tour length, the following (regarding RCAF operational wings) may be deemed relevant:

    OPERATIONAL WINGS

    Source: DHIst file 181.009 D.5189 (RG.24 Vol.20664) which contains much memoranda re awards policy. Letter dated 17 December 1943 from HQ, No.6 Group to Station Croft attaches list of qualifying time for Operational Wings, as defined in AMO A.1169/43:

    Overseas

    (a) Bomber Command - 30 sorties (including Pathfinders)

    (b) Fighter Command

    (1) - Offensive - 200 hours
    (2) - Defensive - 400 hours
    (3) - Night Fighters (including Intruders) 100 hours or a maximum of 18 months.

    (c) Army Co-Operation Command - 200 hours
    Photographic Reconnaissance- 80 sorties or 200 hours

    (d) Coastal Command
    (1) - Flying Boats and Four engine Landplanes - 800 hours
    (2) - Twin engine - 500 hours
    (3) - Photographic Reconnaissance - 300 hours
    (4) - Offensive (including fighter and torpedo) 200 hours or a maximum of 12 months.

    Home War (i.e. in Canada)

    (a) Bomber Reconnaissance
    (1) - Flying boats and four engine landplanes - 200 operational hours.(Anti-submarine)
    (2) - Twin-Engine - 500 operational hours.

    The wings could be awarded for partial tours if a person failed to complete a tour through no fault of his own. Reasons would be:

    (a) wounds
    (b) sickness
    (c) transfer from operations to non-operations for special duties before completion of tour, or
    (d) for an other reason which in the opinion of the CO making the recommendation (subject to the approval of the AOC-in-C, RCAF Overseas) the award should be made even though a tour has not been completed.

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